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Improving Analytical Thinking in English Class


English students face many challenges unique to the humanities classroom. From reading books whose relevance remains elusive to in-class writing projects where rubrics prompt fear and trembling, the young writer enrolled in a Bay Area English course has myriad reasons to seek tutoring. The greatest obstacle to success in the English classroom is often cited as sparse or unconstructive feedback. Students do receive one bit of feedback with alarming regularity: “Go deeper! Needs more analysis! Too vague!”

Tutors in AJ’s English department receive extensive training in transforming these vague comments into actionable steps. Our tutors practice finding patterns in students’ writing to help the young writer break out of ingrained habits. We develop an expertise in communicating effective instruction in grammar, structure, and prewriting techniques so as to predict what the classrooms of our area schools prioritize. Lastly, we privilege building confidence first so that our English students become self-assured writers. From this confidence, we can expect the young writer to become ever more independent, self-starting, and proud of their compositions.

To build this confidence, the English Department has developed a series of arcs that mimic the curricula of local schools in subjects ranging from reading comprehension and textual analysis to grammar basics and creative writing. To scaffold our curriculum work, we employ a battery of proprietary materials, each focusing on a single skill which contributes to a holistic writing approach.


Surreal Book


But how specifically to “go deeper” with analyzing text? A lot of analysis instruction at AJ rests on the strengths and challenges of each student and their assignments. Because needs can differ, 1-on-1 English tutoring is the most efficient way to grow. At the same time, we have recognized larger patterns in the problem of student analysis. It begins with confidently choosing your evidence. Our quotation integration worksheet will provide students with valuable practice in setting up their evidence. We have also developed a three-step approach to analysis. Once we have chosen a quote, we encourage the student to move beyond a superficial paraphrase or summary and help the student 1) show the context, 2) make a valuable observation, and 3) interpret the effect of our observation on the text as a whole.

Our approaches to analysis will help the humanities student, whether it is in the English classroom, the history classroom, or any project that requires critical analysis, such as a senior thesis. This same approach also applies to standardized testing across many disciplines, such as AP, SAT, and ACT test prep.

If your student needs help developing his or her analytical thinking with schoolwork, please give us a call today!


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